Welcome to New Noise, a shout-out to Refused and a new weekly Billboard.com column highlighting up-and-coming alternative and rock artists. When we say “up-and-coming,” we don’t necessarily mean “brand-new,” as our first subject already had three albums to her name. What we do have in store is a weekly shout-out to an artist who’s just beginning to enter a bigger stage and spotlight, and whom we hope you, the reader, hear much more from in the future.
Convincing people to accept your new sound can be tough, especially when you start off with pop-punk. But the second album from Virginia Beach’s Turnover is worth approaching with an open mind. After starting off in 2009 as Saves the Day devotees, the quartet has morphed into a moody, atmospheric indie rock band, without losing its knack for hooks… or stomach-turning lyrics in the Chris Conley tradition. Turnover just wrapped a tour with New Found Glory and people won’t stop comparing them to Title Fight, but bassist Danny Dempsey wants a clean slate.
Billboard presents an exclusive early listen of their new album Peripheral Vision (due May 4 via Run For Cover Records), along with a Q&A with Dempsey.
I don’t know much about the music in Virginia Beach. What was the scene like when the band started?
Our older stuff is more pop-punk, in the vein of Saves the Day. That and hardcore were really big in our area. We were pretty much playing any local show we could with any band in the scene that came through. 2011 was a big time — [we played with] bands like Title Fight, Balance and Composure, Tigers Jaw. There were probably about 500 people at some of the shows. It was great then… now, not so much. I don’t know why that is, but I guess scenes work in cycles. It’ll be great for a few years and then suck… I’ve also been gone more lately, touring with Turnover, so I can’t go to as many local shows.
When we started off, we were playing at a skate park. There have been a few hall spaces and nicer restaurants that hosted bands. When we were starting, we would play anywhere we could — a house, the basement of a church. Now there are more bars up the strip of the beach. But there are no venues that can hold more than 200 people, unless you’re playing a 2,000-cap room. That’s another thing that’s put a halt on our scene. There’s always an age or time restriction.
You’re 22 and you’ve said Saves the Day is a big influence. How did you discover their older music?
I think I’ve only seen them once. There’s a lot of bands we listened to in high school who shaped who we wanted to be and most of them were not doing it then: Movielife, Lifetime, Jawbreaker, Saves the Day.
I remember being in, I think, fifth grade at my friend’s house and he had a copy of Through Being Cool on CD. I remember listening to it just because I remember what the artwork looked like. But it never clicked. I didn’t realize bands were on tour, or that you could even play in a band. When you’re younger you just listen to what’s put in front of you… When I got older, I was like, “Oh wow. I listened to this band when I was really young.”
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Your lyrics can be pretty gruesome, with lines about cutting your brain into hemispheres, or slicing your fingers off. But the music strikes me as atmospheric, almost relaxed. What inspires you to bring those two sides together?
No matter how calm everybody tries to present themselves, everyone has that thing in their life they wish they could change. “Take My Head” is about how it could be the best day and you’re surrounded by happy things, but you still want to be pissed off and sit by yourself. “Cutting My Fingers Off” is more of, things will go wrong in your life and at first you’ll think it’s okay. You and your girlfriend might be going through a breakup and at the start of it you might be thinking it doesn’t matter, but then you realize it sucks. Or you could lose your job and your whole life changes. Sometimes you can feel a physical pain and that’s what that compares to.
I really enjoyed the use of echo throughout the album. Is that an effect you’re especially fond of?
Are you talking about the humming throughout the record? The pulsating thing? That’s a pedal (called a Superego) that we bought for our first full length. We didn’t utilize it a lot then, but on the new record we use it a lot. It’ll sustain any note you hit so you can build five chords on top of each other and build a layer underneath the song. I think it made everything sound a lot bigger than it really is. And using it live helps more than anything… A lot of kids come up to us and ask us how we get that sound.
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I’ve seen over the years how publications and other “tastemakers” can pigeon-hole pop-punk and emo bands. Is that something you guys worry about?
Yeah, definitely. We started off as a pop-punk band when we were 17, 18 years old. That was what made our band click, that scene… But now we’re all older. I’m not saying we don’t like it, but that’s not us anymore and we listen to a lot of different bands. And we’re still being put into that scene. Our most recent tour was with New Found Glory. Our new record is very different and it’s very far from pop-punk, in my opinion. There’s nothing wrong with any of those bands, but we don’t want to stay in that forever.
So far the response on this record has been a lot better. A lot of magazines and stuff that probably wouldn’t have responded in the past are acknowledging it and posting about the new stuff.
So what was it like opening for New Found Glory?
We just got back from that. I think when they asked us to do the tour, they’d heard the more pop-punk stuff, so they thought that was what we were going to play that. The record wasn’t out but we didn’t want to play songs we weren’t stoked on. So every night we played seven of the new songs and one old song… The tour was a lot of fun but I think we confused a lot of people who were there to see New Found Glory and dive off something and try to break their neck.
No one’s going to be a rock star in 2015. Music definitely isn’t what it used to and we’re just going to do what makes us happy and what we’re proud of. We don’t make money off Turnover, really. The only thing we get out of it is playing onstage and being happy with that.